Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Great Walking Guide of Hasankeyf!

“Map-making had never been a precise art on the Discworld. People tended to start off with good intentions and then get so carried away with the spouting whales, monsters, waves and other twiddly bits of cartographic furniture that the often forgot to put the boring mountains and rivers in at all.”

~Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures

The Walking guide of the endangered 12,000 year old town of Hasankeyf. Hasankeyf meets 9/10 criteria to be a UNESCO site but the government would rather put it underwater with the building of the proposed Ilisu Dam on the Tigris River. 

I have always been fascinated by maps. When I was a child my father once told me I could dig a hole straight through the world and come out in China. I wasn’t sure he was right about that, so I tried digging a hole to see if it were true. Unfortunately a toe-shovel accident ended that expedition, so plan B was to check our globe.

 (By the way, Dad, if I dug a hold straight through the earth, I most likely would have ended up in India!)

But this gave birth to one of my favourite past times- sitting on the floor with that old globe, spinning it as fast as I could with my eyes closed. Where my finger stopped the spinning was where I would go in my imagination. 

John Crofoot told me he was in a cafe in Hasankeyf when a man came in, picked up the map and looked at it. After a moment, he held it up, pointed at the row of sheep and announced, “These are our sheep!"

I had a map of the world that hung in every apartment I have had over the past ten years and I would play the same game, though the globe in reality was much more fun. In Shanghai, the map hung on the kitchen wall and I was amused at how many people, (instead of waiting for me in the more comfortable living room) would stand in the kitchen looking at that map. There is something magical about maps. Of new adventures and life happening in places me might never go, of possibilities of going there, of places we’ve been in the past and places we may go in the future. My map was too tattered to bring with me to Istanbul, but I am on the look out for a new one. 

So I was excited and honoured to be presented a special opportunity this year to create a walking guide for the Village of Hasankeyf in Eastern Turkey for Hasankeyf Matters; a group of people concerned Hasankeyf will be lost forever if the Ilusu Dam gets built on the Tigris.

Welcome to Hasankeyf! The 12th C Artukid Bridge in the background; It used to have a wooden top that could be dismantled in a heartbeat  in case anyone tried to invade. The Tigris, which gave birth to the town of Hasankeyf, may prove to be its demise if the dam becomes a reality.

 In 2009, Rene and I had heard the flooding of Hasankeyf was imminent so we spent an afternoon there. We wandered around looked at the town, bought a few goat hair rugs and left. We snapped pictures of the old Roman bridge, walked through one of the canons and looked at old cave houses and even visited with an old lady who still lived in one. We saw ruins of mosques and a tomb, and stuck our feet in the Tigris and bathed in this little 12,000 year old town. But that’s all we really knew about Hasankeyf.

Friends of Hasankeyf bird watching along the Tigris at the 3rd Hasankeyf In-Gathering. 

So this year, my good friend Jonathan put me in touch with John Crofoot of Hasankeyf Matters and he told me his idea of a walking guide through the village of Hasankeyf to encourage people to discover the important endangered archeological sites scattered through town. I wasn’t sure if he’d seen any of my artwork. He didn’t seem too concerned. 

As John was in Hasankeyf and I was in Istanbul, we hashed out drafts through copious emails and uploaded attachments which were shown to the people in Hasankeyf for their input. I was given a google map to work off of with marked sites, and pictures for each place marked. John, a wealth of knowledge, spent time describing flora and fauna and the colours of Hasankeyf (a freshly plucked deep purple fig which when peeled revealed a vibrant earthy green was one of his descriptions!) Together, the walking guide to Hasankeyf was born. 

The exquisite  Zeynel Bey Tomb.  Zeynel Bey died in a battle against the Ottomans in 1473.

I wanted the map to be a work of art, and playful, as is the town of Hasankeyf. Since it’s so close to the border of Iran and has such a rich history, I wanted it to resemble a Persian miniature painting. I stylized the flora and fauna of the town, 
but it is all still recognizable to the children of Hasankeyf who have pointed out the plants and animals and explained them to visitors! 

Though the map is quie simple, it was one of the most complex projects I have ever worked on and I am grateful to John and Necdet Talayhan for their input on getting it right. 

Someone moved into the Artukid Bridge. The things you can do when a site isn’t protected. 

In April, I was able to go out to Hasankeyf with a group of like-minded individuals  at the 4th Hasankeyf Ingathering and put my own map to use. (I also did a painting workshop there but I will save that for another blog entry.) I can’t really describe the experience very well but to say I felt like the map was a child I’d just seen off to college, and they were excelling at their studies like mad without any help from me. Standing on one of the hills looking down at the town of Hasankeyf for the first time since 2009, I recognised places from my painting and the buildings looked like old friends who I knew well this time around.  The painting is mine but the planning belongs to John and Necdet and they did an incredibly caring and intelligent job. The graphics were done by Marta Marszal (link to her below) 
and I couldn’t be happier with how the map looks. 

I’m not sure how the people of Hasankeyf feel about a foreign Canadian girl painting 
such a bizarre little walking guide of their town.But we all agree if it brings people out to Hasankeyf to walk around and get to know it and feel it’s worth saving, it must be a good thing. 
John and Firat on a hike of the Canyons where we ate Dandelion greens and thistle stalks Firat picked for us along the way. If the flooding happens, Firat will lose his beautiful guesthouse and family home which has a beautiful garden complete with fruit trees that his grandfather planted several decades back. 

I am also extremely honoured that Hasankeyf Matters included the map in their petition to put Hasankeyf on the “EuropaNostra Most endangered sites of Europe” list, and Hasankeyf was shortlisted! The big announcement of whether or not they are officially on the list will come on June 16th. I would like to think the map was the icing on a very delicious cake!

And now the map is yours! Feel free to download it, share it, and if you have the opportunity, use it! 

The Children of Hasankeyf we all given a colour copy of the map to take home. “This must be a treasure map!” they announced! I think that is my favourite reaction to the Walking Guide, because Hasankeyf itself is a treasure that is unique in that it isn’t lost yet. And who wants to lose treasure?

The Walking Guide to Hasankeyf:

Link to Superb Graphic Artist Marta Marszal:

Links to Awesome blogs about Hasankeyf:

Hasankeyf Matters: Essential reading about the latest of Hasankeyf.

Hasankeyf matters facebook page:

A common story between Chibayish and Hasankeyf:

The Europa Nostra shortlist:

See you in Hasankeyf!


  1. From pointing at spots on a globe as a girl to going to many of those places as an adult, your life has been a wonderful sojourn. Love the map and this post. I also liked the quote from Terry Pratchett. I've read several of the Discworld books and found them absolutely delightful.


    1. Thanks Nemo! Hopefully one day we will find outselves on the same part of the map again!